Crypto Payments Implicated in Alleged Bolton Assassination Plot, US DOJ Says

A member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard planned retribution against the former National Security Advisor, according to court documents.

AccessTimeIconAug 10, 2022 at 3:41 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:24 p.m. UTC

An alleged Iranian plot to murder former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton involved the promise of as much as $1.3 million in crypto payments, the Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.

Court documents unsealed Aug. 10 allege that Shahram Poursafi, a Tehran-based member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard offered as much as $300,000 to assassinate Bolton, and $1 million for a further, unspecified job, with the transfer apparently set to be made via digital currency.

According to those documents, Poursafi in late 2021 and early 2022 made contact with a U.S. intermediary via encrypted messaging and instructed the would-be assassin to open a crypto wallet, to which small payments were then made as proof of concept.

The move comes as authorities attempt to clamp down on the use of crypto to launder the proceeds of crime, using a controversial means of identifying payers known as the travel rule. Indeed, the U.S. Treasury Department earlier this week blocked access to Tornado Cash, arguing that the privacy-focused mixing service was linked to sanctions-busting and North Korean hackers.

Poursafi, who remains at large abroad, faces up to 25 years in jail and $500,000 in fines if convicted. A spokesperson for Poursafi could not be reached for comment.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Jack Schickler is a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to to register and buy your pass now.